I’ll admit it. I suffer from a little bit of SWS (Super Woman Syndrome). OK, maybe a lot. I entered adulthood in the ‘you can have it all’ era and, although I’ve read plenty of self-help books and dedicate myself (weekly) to the idea of balance, I can’t seem to exorcise it.
Is it so bad that I take pride in doing it all – and doing it well? For me there’s always time do one more thing, take on one more committee, agree to one more meeting. In the process I know I put myself (and those closest to me) under extraordinary stress. But it’s worth it when it all comes together in the end.
Until last week. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say that I miscalculated on a massive scale what I could pull off… and the balls started dropping. I was mortified and waited for the backlash to begin. But it didn’t.
- Nobody beat me up
- Nobody criticized
- Nobody wagged their fingers at me
Nothing bad happened. In fact, some very good things happened instead. Colleagues stepped up to take on a little more. Committee members were happy to do some of the things I normally did. Someone actually thanked me for the chance to do a task that I had been ‘protecting’ her from in the past.
As those around me stepped up so quickly and generously, I found myself wondering about the effect of my SWS on my colleagues, clients, and community members. And here’s what I realized: I’m not doing anyone any favors by doing it all. Quite the opposite in fact.
Every time I say ‘I’ll do that,’ I rob someone else of the chance to become engaged, grow, excel, discover what they can do, and be recognized for it. What I thought was selfless turns out to be pretty selfish instead.
My experience of dropping the ball let me:
- See what others are capable of… and it’s a lot more than they get to do when I’m keeping all of the balls in play.
- Connect with people in a more authentic way
- Reduce my own fear of failure and the stress that I didn’t even know I was carrying around.
As leaders, we don’t serve others by trying to do it all perfectly. Our imperfection gives others a chance to contribute and shine. It also gives them permission to make mistakes too.
Have you ever dropped the ball and experienced a blessing?
As an experiment, what could you drop… just to see what happens?
Please share your experiences because a lot of SWS and SMS (the male version of the disorder) sufferers could benefit from your blessing lessons!
Image by ingridtaylar